After 10 months of witnessing the coronavirus’s destructive capacity, on December 16 I joined thousands of health-care workers across the country and received my initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I felt hope for the first time since March, when COVID-19 patients started streaming into my emergency room. My colleagues and I would now have one more layer of protection in our fight against the virus.

My relief was short-lived. Walking back into the emergency room, I once again felt the despair brought on by the pandemic; the vaccines won’t help any of the COVID-19 patients I am currently treating, or those who will come in during my next shift…

During the spring surge, I watched many of my colleagues get infected and struggle with COVID-19. I remember Jeaux Gallien, a resident physician, coming into the ER barely able to stand, gasping for air, unable to speak. We hurriedly put him in a wheelchair and rushed him into treatment. He recovered, but other colleagues who got sick did not. Romy Agtarap died in April. He was on a ventilator in the same hospital he’d served for decades as a nurse. He came out of retirement to help fight back the wave of patients. And for it, he lost his life.